Few cities in the world can lay claim to two continents, and none is more notable than Istanbul. Full of wonder and intrigue, the capital of Turkey is full of rich cultures, grand histories, and breathtaking views you have to see in this lifetime. Here are our top ten:
10) Taksim Square
Located in the European side Taksim Square is a hub of activity for locals and tourists alike. The hosts the Monument of the Republic, an Italian sculpted statue commemorating the Turkish independence.
9) The Chora Church
This beautiful Byzantine era Church is home to some of the best preserved mosaics and frescoes in all of Istanbul. Originally built outside the gates of Constantinople, you won’t want to miss the unique Christian artwork.
8) Galata Tower
Want the best view of the city? Look no further than the Galata tower. This 14th century, nine-story tower provides a beautiful panoramic view of the Bosphorus and surrounding peninsula. Bring your camera, you’re going to need it.
7) Topkapi Palace
Take a step inside the sultans’ old palace grounds. During the Ottoman empire this immaculate four-courtyard palace was home to some of the most spectacular celebrations. Today, it is full of unique art, including a hair from the prophet Muhammad’s beard.
Take a ride on the romantic Bosphorus. This continental-dividing strait has historically been important for its strategic significance. Today, it provides some of the most breathtaking views of both the European and Asian sides of Istanbul.
5) Grand Bazaar
Not only is the Grand Bazaar a shopper’s paradise, with over 3,000 shops and over 250,000 daily visitors, but it is home to some of the most authentic Turkish sights. Pounds of herbs, nuts, teas, and spices create a multi-sensory experience you won’t want to miss.
4) Basilica Cistern
Straight out of the 1963 James Bond film, the Basilica Cistern is the largest underground cistern in Istanbul. With the ability to hold over 2.8 million cubic feet of water, this cathedral sized cistern is like stepping into another world. See if you can find the upside down Medusa head, just be sure not to stare her in the eyes.
3) Suleymaniye Mosque
This beautiful 16th century mosque combines Islamic and Byzantine architecture to create a visual feat and the largest mosque in Istanbul. The simple interior design is complemented by a spacious courtyard. As with many mosques it is open to the public, except during prayer times.
2) Hagia Sophia
Perhaps the most historic and iconic Church, originally built by Constantine and later rebuilt by Justinian the Hagia Sophia held the title of largest Church for much of the first millennium. This spacious edifice has deep history as both a cathedral and a mosque. Now as a museum, its history is available to the public, something you won’t want to miss.
10) Sultan Ahmed Mosque or Blue Mosque
At the top of our list is the incredible Sultan Ahmed Mosque, or better known as the Blue Mosque. Its six reaching minarets were the source of controversy in the 17th century. The interior is covered with over 20,000 handmade Iznik ceramic tiles. At the end of the day this is just one of those things you have to see for yourself.